Nightly News   |  September 16, 2013

How the Navy Yard shooting happened

From the first report of a gunman to the lockdown of area schools, see the timeline of the Navy Yard shooting tragedy. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports. Editor's note: In the days following this report, new information emerged indicating that the animation in it is not an entirely accurate depiction of events.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening. there has been another mass shooting in this country. this time close to the center of our government in washington, d.c., not far from the u.s. capitol . gunfire erupted this morning inside the washington navy yard , a complex of buildings dating back to the late 1700s . tonight, at least 12 people are dead. the police say another dozen are injured. seven minutes after the first call to 911, the first police officers rushed in. there were numerous gun battles, apparently, inside one of the buildings before the gunman could be taken down. he has been identified as aaron alexis, a military contractor and former naval reservist from texas. now this ranks with the shootings in ft. hood,uroaurora, colorado. the shooting brought much of d.c. to a stand still . flights grounded, schools locked down. even a senate lock down because the capitol is a mile and a half away from the navy yard . we have it covered tonight beginning with our pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski .

>> reporter: morning rush hour in the nation's capital pierced by the wail of sirens. 8:15, the first reports that a gunman was on a shooting rampage at the navy yard , crackling across fire dispatch radio .

>> we have a report on the fourth floor of a male with a shotgun. multiple shots fired, multiple people down.

>> reporter: patricia ward was in line at the nayvy command cafeteria when the first gunshots rang out.

>> there were three gunshots straight in a row. pop, pop, pop. three seconds later it was pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. so it was about a total of oh seven gunshots. we just started running.

>> reporter: for sean carol it was surreal. he couldn't believe what he was hearing.

>> i was running and i heard gunshots. holy cow . i don't know. they could have been way above me. i wasn't stopping to think what was going on.

>> reporter: eyewitnesses report the shooter took up a position on the fourth floor overlooking an atrium in the center of the building. from there he reportedly opened fire with an automatic rifle on the breakfast crowd in the food court on the ground floor and others in a third floor balcony area. the gunman confronted a man in the fourth floor corridor and shot him at point blank range. most of the victims never saw their attacker. a man walking next to navy commander tim juris was cut down by gun fire.

>> there was a shooter in the building. i heard two shots. he was shot in the head. didn't look like he made it. i ran from there.

>> reporter: 12 people were killed in the shooting spree , several injured the including a police officer . the gunman identified as a former navy reservist, aaron alexis, was killed in a shootout with authorities who stormed the building.

>> the response by uniformed police officers was absolutely nothing short of he roic.

>> reporter: the chaos paralyzed the city. nearby schools were locked down, highways shut down. the capitol closed and the nationals baseball game postponed. air traffic from nearby national airport suspended while medevac helicopters air lifted the wounded to a hospital. as employees streamed out, many colleagues helped each other to safety. at the white house today, president obama paid b tribute i to the fallen.

>> they are patriots. they know the dangers of serving abroad, but today they faced the unimagine able violence they wouldn't have expected at home.

>> reporter: tonight, security is still tight at the navy center which is a couple of blocks behind me. most of those who work there have to pass through very tight, several layers of security every day and couldn't feel safer until today. and for a military that has grown accustomed to mourning the dead, this incident, brian, has come as a real shocker.

>> jim, thanks. jim miklaszewski starting our coverage from washington tonight.